Hiking At Gold Strike Hot Springs

My oldest son took me hiking a couple of weeks ago during his leave after graduating from Marine boot camp. I can’t believe this awesome hike existed around here and I never even knew it was there!

It’s a narrow trail that winds down a desert canyon outside of Boulder City, not far from Hoover Dam. There are frequent big drops along boulders that must be carefully scaled–many have ropes in place to help hikers safely navigate the rocky dips that are too far to jump.

But it’s absolutely worth it. The hike itself is a worthy challenge for experienced and agile hikers, the hot springs along the way are impressive, and the end of the trail–at the edge of the Colorado river–is flat out gorgeous.

We began in the early morning darkness, and the trail was empty–we didn’t see anybody until we started back to the start. It was a fantastic way to spend a morning.

The Waterfall at Ice Box Canyon

This week my family and I spent a few hours hiking through Ice Box Canyon at Red Rock to see the seasonal waterfall. It’s fed by melting snow and, since this winter has been especially rainy here (and snowy in the mountains), we figured it would be strong this year. In fact, it was so strong that half the trail was flooded and we had to leapfrog and wade our way in!

Totally worth it, though. Here are some shots at the end.

[I also wrote about this hike eight years ago.]



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This Week at the Valley of Fire

On the pro side, our family camp out Monday and Tuesday provided lots of great scenery, sun, and exercise. We all climbed and hiked like crazy, including the baby. The temperature was perfect. The landscapes were majestic. The together time was fun.

On the con, a huge wind storm blew dirt in our faces and broke my biggest tent. The fabric ripped, half the poles snapped, and the metal hardware that connects the poles to the tent fabric was actually broken in half! Never seen anything like it. And we got orange sand all over our stuff. Guess Anakin Skywalker was right about that junk after all.

On balance, a great experience, though!

We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features….We need to witness our own limits transgressed.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden


Light and Color in Layers at Red Rock Canyon

Took several of my children hiking at Red Rock Canyon this morning.  My favorite pictures of the landscape are these two, showing mid-morning sunbeams streaming down over a lush desert vista, rolling out in layers.  This view is facing southeast from the highest point of the Keystone Thrush Trail.






Of course, the whole family’s favorite view of the hike was this little critter.  I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is actually the first tarantula I’ve seen out in the desert:



Hiking to the Top of Mt. Charleston

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son and I tried hiking to the top of Mt. Charleston, which is 20 miles northwest of Las Vegas and at nearly 12,000 feet is the highest peak in southern Nevada.  We only made it halfway, but a few days ago I went back and did the whole thing.

I went up the south trail, and down the north trail.  Those are about eight miles each, and with the short hike up the highway to get back to my car, the whole trip was 17 miles.  That took me ten hours (5.5 hours to get up, 4.5 hours to get back down).  I drank seven water bottles during the hike, FYI.  Here are some pictures I took along the way:

I took this picture just to capture that blue sky. The sky never gets that deep of a hue down here in the valley. This is in a meadow at about 10,000 feet.

Looking southwest over rural Nevada from 10,000 feet.

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Adventure and Refreshment at Mount Charleston


Last Saturday, to beat the heat here in the depths of the Las Vegas Valley, the Hustons retreated to the bucolic splendors of the nearby Mount Charleston area.  I looked for a trail to hike that wouldn’t be too long or too short, or too easy or too hard for our children (and whose porridge would be neither too hot nor too cold…oh wait, that’s something else).  Also, parking and access to the trail had to be free. 

We settled on the Fletcher Canyon Trail, which is just under four miles round trip, and which has a gentle but noticeable slope.  I also liked that trail because it offered so much shade, going well into the forested area, as well as a stream and sheer cliff faces overhead at the end, boxing you in with 200 foot walls on either side. 


The hike offered plenty for us all to gape at: a few deer on the drive up, a huge spider’s nest in a tree hanging over the trail, large trees fallen over a dry part of the stream bed (suitable for daredevil stunts), a lizard in the bushes, bats that thought nothing of flitting around us and then landing still on the closest tree (ready for close inspection by curious youngsters), and the stream itself, which was crystal clear and ice cold, and which was apparently good for dunking our heads in, and for pouring on each other.  After cooling off in that water, a couple of us bottled some to take home, boil, and enjoy. 

Incidentally, there was a picture on the front page of the Nevada section of the Review-Journal yesterday that showed exactly the same thing–two kids on the Fletcher Canyon Trail playing in the stream.  Weird. 

A great few hours all around.  One of our more successful hikes, and one of the most scenic since the Great Snowy Valentine’s Day of 2009.

Hiking At Red Rock Canyon

Just ten miles west of Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, a gorgeous area in the mountains that offers plentiful opportunities for sightseeing, rock climbing, and hiking.  For this holiday weekend, our family continued an annual tradition: each year around this time, a waterfall forms at a certain point on one of the hiking trails, and we go to see it. 

We usually take the Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail (#8 on the page linked above), but today we took the adjacent Ice Box Canyon Trail (#12), after I failed to notice the sign clearly showing that this trail is twice as long and much more difficult than what we’re used to.  Also, it’s been ten degrees colder than usual for the last two weeks, and uncharacteristically rainy.  I thought this might make the waterfall stronger; I didn’t count on it covering half our trail in ice and snow. 

We expected to be hiking for about an hour and a half.  We ended up being out there for over three hours.  Although the younger kids got whiny at times when it got too slippery, everybody was fine and had a good time.  We’d never seen anybody take dogs hiking up there, but we saw several today, which was unfortunate, since the two preschoolers are both deathly afraid of dogs; their hysterical wailing made for some awkward moments. 

On the way in, we noticed a stunning sight up ahead: where the canyon walls on either side of us came closer together in the distance, another mountain face was visible in the small gap.  On it, a huge sheet of glistening ice was reflecting the afternoon sun and was practically glowing.  My wife snapped a great shot:


When we realized we couldn’t scramble up any further (besides the fact that it was getting late and we were hungry), we stopped to enjoy the picnic lunch that my wonderful bride had packed for us. 

Next to the area where we’d stopped, one of the trail’s signature seasonal waterfalls was spilling down the cliff and into a little lagoon in a small reservoir next to us, down a slope that was overgrown with bushes, hiding the pool itself.  I took the camera and managed to get down the embankment.  The hardest part here was that I had our five month old baby strapped to my chest in one of those Snugli carriers.  At the bottom, I discovered a frozen palace of ice and snow.  I took this picture, which sadly turned out a little blurry:


Two more views of the winter oasis I found, one of which has a clearer shot of the ice formation above:



We came home with rosy cheeks, wet shoes, and a unique story to tell about how we spent our Valentine’s Day.